What Makes You Country?


A new song is emerging at the top of music platforms, and it’s rise has been fueled by controversy. “Old Town Road” a single released by Lil Nas X grew in popularity as it arrived on three of Billboard’s charts: the Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Country Songs. The music video for the song has over 46 million views on YouTube, and the song also reached Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist.

Old town road is the first country song to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2012, when Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” held the number one spot. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back together” is also a country song that is questionably country.

Lil Nas X, a 20 year old Atlanta native described the song as “country trap.” However, Billboard quickly removed “Old Town Road” from the Hot Country playlist, disagreeing with the singer’s statement that the song is part of the country genre. Nevertheless, the song still remained popular and Lil Nas X signed a record deal with Columbia Records.

On Apr. 5, Lil Nas X released a remix of the song that features the famous country star Billy Ray Cyrus. The remix, just like the original song, abounded in success and held the number one spot on the Spotify Today’s Top Hits playlist.

Soon after “Old Town Road” was booted (no pun intended) off the country chart, people began to question Billboard’s decision to determine the song’s genre. Music lovers and critics alike began to wonder: “What really makes a song country?”

The Lancer interviewed both country haters and fans on TOHS campus to discover what the student body thinks of the song.

“It is not a country song. It is an alternative or pop song with country lyrics,” junior country fan Ashlyn Holt said. “It’s a bop. It’s got a catchy beat. The fact that it’s short makes it better because you’re not listening to it for so long that you get tired of it.”

“Old Town Road” has many country elements in the song, but also has many elements that are not commonly found in the genre.

“Does it sound like country? It’s country themed but it doesn’t sound like it’s a country song,” Lauritzen said.

The hit has a hip hop back track with a heavy bass, and the choruses of the song are sung, while the verses are raped. Rap is a music element that is rarely to never seen in country music. However, famous country singer songwriter Sam Hunt, used elements of rap in his award winning album “Montevallo.” His slow country-rap in the hit songs “Take Your Time” and “Break Up In A Small Town” made the songs unique and rise to the top of the country charts.

So does the rap and heavy bass  in “Old Town Road” automatically make the song not country? Or is rap part of a new era of country music?

“He created a new genre for music called ‘trap country’ and I think it’s pretty sick,” senior country fan Trinity Magruder said.

The lyrics to “Old Town Road,” however are undoubtedly country. The verses have references to traditional subjects of country music, like horses, cowboy hats, tractors and Wrangler jeans.

“Yes [it is a country song.] It’s sort of got that kind of vibe to it, so when you listen to it, it just sounds like a country song, more than it does sound like a rap song,” sophomore country music hater Brian Spinelli said.

Luke Bryan, one of the most prominent country stars in the industry, released a song titled “What Makes You Country.” The chorus of the song states the lyrics “I can’t judge, Just be proud of what makes you country.” Some critics praise “Old Town Road” and call it a full fledged country song. Others criticize it, calling it fake country, while others refer to Lil Nas X as a founder of a new genre. It’s up to you to form your own opinion on “Old Town Road.”